Hats and balloons—not what comes to mind when processing tax returns.
“Monday was hat or crazy hair day, Tuesday was Mardi Gras, they really got into that…”
That’s Linda Gingrich, an Assistant Manager in the Receiving area at the Franchise Tax Board. She’s talking about spirit week— a long standing tradition at tax time. She’s decked out in a floral dress and lei for today’s tropical theme…. Sports day and Bling Bling day are still to come. There are potlucks and even a parade during the lunch break. But the work doesn’t stop.
The receiving area is ground zero this time of year… A giant machine sorts returns. It can open up to thirty thousand envelopes an hour. The normal work force of 150 has swelled to more than a thousand people, checking and sorting. Two shifts are going day and night. Denise Azimi is with the F.T.B. She says the job demands a lot:
"These folks have a lot to pay attention to, accuracy is important, speed is very important.”
It’s a crucial time for the state. A large chunk of California’s income comes in now. State officials keep careful, daily tabs. State Controller John Chiang even has a chart on his website tracking personal income tax revenue this month. The state faces a nearly 20-billion dollar budget hole. So a lot rests on those who process tax returns at the F.T.B. Linda Gingrich says keeping it fun helps motivate the team.
“It keeps ‘em excited, it gets everybody into the spirit of the week, it’s kind of a tension release, we’ve got a lot that has to go out, they push out a lot of work during this one particular week.”
The Franchise Tax Board handles some 15 million personal income tax returns. About three and a half million have come in over the last few weeks.